Crosscurrents Preview

A Preview of Crosscurrents: Navigating the Turbulent Politics of the Right During the Horthy Era In Hungary, 1920-1944

Yakov Merkin


I first chose to research and write about the Horthy era in Hungary simply because I found it fascinating when I first learned a bit about it in one of my final undergraduate classes, and I also hoped (and still hope) to one day write historical fantasy set in that period. What I did not expect was for this topic to suddenly become relevant again, beyond Hungary (with the rise of Jobbik, as I mention briefly in the paper, Horthy and the general era in which he was in power has been a more discussed, controversial issue in Hungary since the fall of communism in the 1990s.) Specifically, this began with the accusations lobbed at Sebastian Gorka, an advisor to United States President Donald Trump, and who is of Hungarian origin. To briefly summarize the alleged controversy, at an official event several months ago, Gorka wore a pin that had the emblem of the Hungarian Viteszi Rend (Order of Heroes). Immediately, he, and the group, were accused of being Nazis and antisemites. Gorka’s personal record speaks for itself, and makes the accusations made against him laughable, but I have even seen articles in which Gorka is given a fair shake where Horthy is referred to blankly as a fascist or a “Nazi ally,” and his whole administration labeled as blanketly evil, with Viteszi Rend being directly linked to Nazism and fascism. This accusation is patently false as well, as Viteszi Rend predated Nazism, and while it did have antisemitic, pro-Nazi members, it similarly had members who helped save Jews. It was only after the war that it was linked to the Nazis, as any organizations at all linked to the Hungarian government were broadly labeled as such and disbanded.

However, more troubling to me is the high amount of things people (primarily Americans) get so wrong when writing or talking about Horthy and his administration, which, as this paper will show, was not a simple or static thing. I believe, however, that many of these wrong or oversimplified statements are made due to people’s lack of knowledge on this topic, which I am certain is never covered in any broad courses on modern European history, and of which there is a very limited selection of English-language sources on the topic.

Just as Horthy is maligned today, so is Hungary’s current prime minister, who is one of few European leaders who genuinely cares about preserving his people and culture, something Horthy would definitely have approved of. Viktor Orban and his administration have been attacked by many of the same people who attacked Gorka and, while this paper may not change those people’s minds, I think it can somewhat enlighten them, and provide a more objective look at the Horthy era.

Thus, I am choosing to release this thesis to the public, at as low a cost as possible, in the hope that it will serve as an entry point for people to learn about and come to understand this fascinating period of history, as well as how some of what led to and influenced it informs Hungarian politics to this very day. I hope you will find it interesting, and that you will learn something about a criminally under-studied topic.


To learn more about this fascinating piece of history, check out Crosscurrents over on Amazon!

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